Friday, March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON: Court Fines Anti-Gay Florist $1000, Gives Her 60 Days To Pay

Via the Associated Press:
A Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding was fined $1,000 Friday, plus $1 for court costs and fees. Benton County Superior Judge Alexander Ekstrom's ruling gives Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, 60 days to pay the state for her refusal to serve Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed when they sought to buy wedding flowers in 2013. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office requested the fine, said in a statement Friday that the ruling is a reminder of the reach of Washington's anti-discrimination laws. "My primary goal has always been to end illegal discrimination," Ferguson said. "I'm pleased that today's ruling clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples." Before Ferguson's office filed the consumer-protection lawsuit against Stutzman, it had sent her a letter asking for an agreement to no longer discriminate, which she refused. Ferguson's statement Friday said the office would not have sued if Stutzman had accepted the agreement.
The judge also ruled that the gay couple is entitled to damages, but he reserved setting that amount until the appeals process runs its course. The Alliance Defending Freedom is very upset. Via World Net Daily:
Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior counsel, said the award to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson boils down to a government threat to Christians: “Surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.” Waggoner said the judgment Friday “affirms the court’s earlier decision that Barronelle must pay a penalty for her faith and surrender her freedom and conscience.”

“The penalty and fees imposed today are only the first punch,” Waggoner said. “The ACLU, on behalf of the same-sex couple also suing Barronelle, has asked the court to award them penalties, fees, and costs, which will financially devastate Barronelle’s business and personal assets – including taking this 70-year old grandmother’s retirement and personal savings. The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.”

WND reported earlier when the state offered to settle its case for $2,001, but Stutzman rejected the offer out of hand. That was after Ekstrom authorized the state and the homosexual plaintiffs to pursue the business and personal assets of Stutzman, including her home, savings and retirement, in payment of damages and attorneys’ fees.

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Ellen DeGeneres Slams Indiana

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INDIANA: Restaurant Owner Tells Radio Show That He'll Refuse Gay Customers

From a morning chat radio show in Indianapolis:
Kyle & Rachel were discussing the ‘Religious Freedom’ bill today when they received a call from a local business owner, Ryan, who not only supports the bill 100% but refused service to a gay couple before. Ryan was so honest with his answers that he mentioned he once blamed a mechanical failure in the kitchen in order to refuse service to a gay couple! Listen to the call that had all circuits busy this morning for an entire hour!
The station's clip auto-plays so you'll have to listen to it here. (Tipped by JMG reader Scott)

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Sen. Rand Paul Courts Fundies: Same-Sex Marriage Is The Result Of A Moral Crisis

“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything. In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country, there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage, there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage. We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform." - Sen. Rand Paul, speaking today at a prayer breakfast attended by evangelical pastors. After his speech, Sen. Paul competed in the 17th Annual Chuck Norris Hideous Toupee Open, where he placed third behind John Travolta and the late Howard Cosell.

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ARKANSAS: Senate Approves Anti-Gay License To Discriminate Bill, Gov. Asa Hutchinson Says He Plans To Sign It

Arkansas Online reports:
The chamber voted 24-7 to approve House Bill 1228, the Conscience Protection Act, a day after representatives from the Human Rights Campaign spoke out against the bill in Little Rock and called it discriminatory. HB1228's lead sponsor, state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, has said the bill will shift Arkansas to a strict scrutiny standard, which makes it more difficult to infringe on religious rights. He told House members when the legislation passed that chamber last month that it would require the government to have compelling interest and for it to take the least restrictive action to regulate a "legitimate, deeply-held religious belief."
The bill must now return to the House to reconcile minor changes made by the Senate. The House first approved the bill in February. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said yesterday that he intends to sign it.

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INDIANA: Hacker Takes Down State Site

Via the Indianapolis Star:
The State of Indiana's website was apparently hacked in response to Gov. Mike Pence's signing of a controversial "religious freedom" bill. The state's website,, had been down for several hours, according to readers, before coming back online after 3 p.m. An individual using the Twitter handle @YourVikingdom is claiming responsibility. "@IN_gov enjoy your website being #OFFLINE," one Tweet said. Another said: "#Target http://IN.GOV #OFFLINE#Vikingdom2015 #OpIndianaKnocked it down for @xxdjsethxx :)." The link goes to an article at Perez Hilton's website titled: "The Governor Of Indiana Just Signed A Religious Freedom Bill That Would Allow Businesses To Discriminate Against The LGBT Community." State officials did not immediately respond to questions from The Star.
(Tipped by JMG reader Charles)

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White House Slams Indiana

Justin Snow reports at Metro Weekly:
The White House voiced concerns Friday over a new religious freedom law in Indiana that could allow discrimination against LGBT people. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law yesterday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has raised legitimate concerns among companies reconsidering doing business in the state and is not a step toward equality for all Americans.

“I have seen that there are a number of private businesses and nonprofit organizations that have said that the signing of this law prompts them to reconsider doing business in the state of Indiana,” Earnest said. “All those business and some of those who are considering having conventions in Indiana have raised concerns about whether all of their employees can count on being treated fairly in Indiana.

“I think that is a testament to the kind of reaction I think a lot of people all across the country had, which is that the signing of the bill doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans. Again, that’s not just the view of the administration, I know that’s the view of the Republican mayor of Indianapolis and a whole host of nonprofit and private sector companies who have legitimate concerns about the impact of this legislation.”
It appears that this is first time that the Obama administration has spoken out on the recent wave of anti-LGBT legislation.

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Viral Video Of The Day

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ITALY: Neo-Nazi Party To Stage Public Burning Of LGBT Children's Books

Two days after a civil unions bill advanced in the Italian Senate, tomorrow Italy's neo-Nazi New Front Party will stage a public burning of LGBT children's books in Milan. Local progressives are demanding that city authorities step in to stop the event.

Members of the Democratic Party are outraged: "Burning books with a theme of homosexuality was a typical behavior of the Nazi regime. This horrendous return to the most terrible past must be censured and rejected with the greatest commitment. Milan is a noted city of the resistance and in the seventieth anniversary year of its liberation it cannot suffer such an outrage."

Another group is calling for a counter-protest: "We invite the citizens of Milan to come to Piazza Oberdan [tomorrow] with one of the books contained in the list in question or with books like those of Sappho, Tondelli or Oscar Wilde. Read them together with us." (Tipped by JMG reader Andrea)

RELATED: The New Front Party was formed in 1997 by members of a Nazi punk band. In the 2013 general election New Front candidates got nearly 200,000 votes but won zero seats in the national legislature. Among its stated objectives are the "humane repatriation" of immigrants, a ban on abortion, the abolition of capitalism, and "the recovery of Christian religiosity and faith in the Catholic Church."

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Black Church Group: We Are Ever So Pissed At The Presbyterian Church

The National Black Church Initiative today declared that they are furious with the Presbyterian Church's decision to endorse same-sex marriage. They are now totally no longer besties and have "broken fellowship" with them. Whatever that means. Via press release:
This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text. Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted "NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship." PCUSA's manipulation represents a universal sin against the entire church and its members. With this action, PCUSA can no longer base its teachings on 2,000 years of Christian scripture and tradition, and call itself a Christian entity in the body of Christ. It has forsaken its right by this single wrong act.
The NBCI claims to represent "34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans."

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NEW YORK: Gay Pol Thanks Miley Cyrus For Help With Homeless Youth Funding Bill

Openly gay New York Sen. Brad Hoylman today thanked pop star Miley Cyrus for helping win millions of dollars in state funding for homeless youth shelters. Via DNA Info:
The 2015 New York State Budget now has $4.5 million in funding for homeless youth shelters, the first significant increase in seven years — thanks to Miley Cyrus. State Sen. Brad Hoylman said credit for convincing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to include the funding belongs to the "Wrecking Ball" singer. "I want to thank Miley Cyrus for her advocacy in helping raise awareness through our #5000TooMany social media campaign," Hoylman said in a statement. "Miley’s advocacy on behalf of homeless kids made a difference and is a perfect example how star power can be used to help others." Cyrus sent a letter to the Albany power trio a week ago urging them to include the funding in the budget.
State funding for homeless youth had been cut by two-thirds since 2008. The restored funding will reportedly pay for 1000 new shelter beds. The above-linked story does not specify how the new funding might be distributed to homeless LGBT youth services such as the Ali Forney Center.

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Family Research Council: God's Army Must Rise Up & Fight The Evil Of Gay Rights

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CHERRY GROVE: Fire Destroys Two Hotels, Gay Nightclub, And Several Residences

A massive fire swept through Cherry Grove's commercial district on Fire Island last night, destroying several private homes, the Holly House Hotel, and the Grove Hotel, the last of which was home to the famed Ice Palace nightclub. For decades the Ice Palace hosted the Miss Fire Island pageant and served as the kickoff location for the annual Fire Island Pines Drag Invasion. Local authorities say that the source of the blaze, which reportedly broke out on the nearby boardwalk, is unknown. About 80 firefighters were on the scene and two suffered injuries, but no residents were hurt, possibly because most of Fire Island is unoccupied at this time of year. Last night's fire was yet another in a recent string of disasters to strike Fire Island's two predominantly gay towns. The commercial district of neighboring Fire Island Pines was destroyed in a 2011 fire and both towns were flooded during 2012's Hurricane Sandy.
(Via Towleroad)

UPDATE: Contrary to the above-linked Newsday report that the Grove Hotel is a "complete loss," this news item says the Ice Palace nightclub portion of the complex suffered only minor damage.

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Proposition Jake

Clip recap:
Hey Gang! So there's this ridiculous bill circulating the Attorney Generals Office of California that calls for the execution of Gay TV Characters!..... Wait no... I mean the execution of REAL GAY people. What's called the "Sodomite Suppression Act" (rude) is legislation that essentially legalizes the execution of gay people by "bullets" to the head is not only completely insane but also in itself illegal. Why is our government circulating it in the first place? What state am I living in? What century is it?

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Try To Remember The Fantasticks

Playbill has the news:
The Off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks, still the longest-running musical in world history and the longest-running play of any kind in American history, has announced that it will close in May. The little musical about a Boy, a Girl and the wall that separates them will close May 3, the 55th anniversary of the opening of the show in 1960. At the time of its closing, the production will have played a total of 20,672 performances in NYC: 17,162 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and 3,510 at the Jerry Orbach Theatre at the Snapple Theater Center at the corner of Broadway and 50th Street. Producer Catherine Russell told, "It has become increasingly challenging to sell lots of tickets consistently--we are either incredibly busy and selling out or selling fewer tickets that we have been in previous years. It's feast or famine. So due to this uncertainty,I have reluctantly decided to close The Fantasticks on the 55th anniversary of its opening on May 3, 1960.

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Eleven Senate Republicans Vote For Benefits For Married Same-Sex Couples

Chris Geidner reports at Buzzfeed:
Eleven Senate Republicans joined with all of the Democrats on Thursday night in supporting an amendment to guarantee equal Social Security and veterans benefits to married same-sex couples — even if they live in a state that does not recognize such marriages. The vote was one of many, nonbinding Senate votes of a broad range of hot-button issues for a budget that might not even pass the upper chamber.

Nonetheless, the vote gives rare insight into the potential changes going on within the Republican Party on the marriage issue in advance of the coming Supreme Court decision widely expected to hold that bans on same-sex couples’ marriages are unconstitutional. Six of the 11 Republicans voting for the measure are up for re-election in 2016.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz, addressed the fact that both Social Security and some provisions of veterans’ benefits are, by statute, provided to spouses on the basis of whether a couple’s marriage is recognized by the state in which they live. The amendment would provide for benefits for spouses for all married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.
Also voting "yes" was Sen. Joe Manchin (WV), the lone Senate Democrat yet to endorse same-sex marriage. Hit the link for the list of Republicans.

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Country Radio Stations Pull Hit Single Following Complaints About "Gay Agenda"

Country radio stations nationwide have ceasing playing a hit single after listeners wrongly complained that the song promotes homosexuality. Via the Washington Post:
Alana Lynn, a morning co-host on country music station 104.3 FM in Boise, Idaho, was excited to play Little Big Town’s latest single for her listeners. “Girl Crush,” a powerful ballad about a woman envious of her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, seemed destined to be a hit. “I want to taste her lips, yeah cause they taste like you / I want to drown myself in a bottle of her perfume,” vocalist Karen Fairchild sings. “I want her long blond hair, I want her magic touch / Yeah cause maybe then, you’d want me just as much. . . I got a girl crush.” Sure, it’s a provocative way to describe jealousy. But when Lynn played the song on the air, she didn’t anticipate that she would get furious phone calls and e-mails accusing “Girl Crush” of “promoting the gay agenda” and threats to boycott the station. In recent weeks, multiple radio stations from coast to coast have been inundated with similar complaints about “Girl Crush,” forcing several to take it out of a regular rotation. (Sample comments heard by a Texas program director: “You are just promoting the gay agenda on your station and I am changing the channel and never listening to you ever again!!”)
The song is currently #4 on the iTunes country chart and is at #17 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

(Tipped by JMG reader Eric)

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SAN FRANCISCO: Mayor Ed Lee Bans Work Travel To Indiana For City Staffers

"We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana’s new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety. San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana." - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, via press release.

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Headline Of The Day

Via the London Standard:
The co-pilot who deliberately crashed a plane into a mountainside in the French Alps was suffering from depression and 'a personal life crisis,' according to reports. Andreas Lubitz, 28, had deliberately put the Germanwings airliner into a descent after the captain left the cockpit, French prosecutors said after analysing evidence from the recovered cockpit voice recorder. 150 people were killed, including babies, 16 schoolchildren and the flight's cabin crew and pilot. The head of Lufthansa, Germanwings parent company, admitted Lubitz had taken a long break from pilot training, while German media reported he had been battling mental health issues. Investigators are focusing on his "personal, family and professional environment" to try to determine why he locked his captain out of the cockpit and reset the autopilot to take the doomed plane from 38,000 feet to just 100ft. According to German newspaper Bild, Lubitz was going through a "personal life crisis", while the Der Spiegel newspaper said he had taken a break in training because of "burnout-syndrome".
More from the Daily Mail:
Yesterday, the boss of Germanwings admitted Lubitz had slipped through the ‘safety net’ and should never have been flying. It was also revealed that the fitness fanatic had suffered from depression and ‘burnout’ which had held up his career. He reportedly received a year and half of psychiatric treatment and was at one point recommended to be examined by a doctor before flying. But, incredibly, he passed his psychological assessments and was later considered fit to fly. Germany’s Federal Aviation Office confirmed this morning that Lubitz had a medical condition noted in his pilot’s records which required him to have a regular examination. It was reported this morning that during his education at the Lufthansa Flight School in Phoenix, Arizona, he was listed temporarily as 'unfliable'. It was suggested today that Lubitz - who had worked for Lufthansa as a cabin attendant for nearly a year before being accepted for flight training - may have been teased by other pilot's over his previous role. A friend said: 'His nickname was "Tomato Andy" - a reference to his past employment as a flight steward'.
And from Sky News:
Prosecutors investigating the Germanwings crash have said there were indications the co-pilot hid his illness from his employers. In a news conference on Friday, the prosecutors said that Andreas Lubitz hid a sick note on the day the Airbus A320 crashed into a mountainside during a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. The torn-up note, dated on the day of the crash on Tuesday, was found in the 27-year-old's flat in Dusseldorf. The prosecutors added that documents showed he was receiving medical treatment, but that no suicide note or claim of responsibility for the crash was found.

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The Sound Of Music Turns 50

Via the Daily Mail:
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited on Thursday for a 50th anniversary screening of their hit film The Sound Of Music. The 79-year-old actress looked radiant in a loose white blouse, black jacket and matching trousers upon arrival at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Christopher, 85, was dapper in a black suit and blue dress shirt with dotted black tie. The screening featured a restored version of the musical and it opened the TCM Classic Film Festival that runs through Sunday. The restored 4K version of the film also will be screened at over 500 movie theatres in April. The 1965 film was an adaptation of the hit Broadway play by Rodgers & Hammerstein and both provided a fictionalized account of the life of Maria von Trapp.
The first clip below is from last night's event. 

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Sen. Harry Reid To Retire In 2016

The New York Times has the big news:
Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance. Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections. “I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”

His departure at the end of 2016 will create an opening both at the top of the Senate Democratic hierarchy and in a Senate contest that would have been a megaspending slugfest in the presidential battleground of Nevada. Conservatives such as Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who were a favorite target of Reid criticism in 2014, would have spared no expense in trying to oust him. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who helped Democrats capture the Senate in 2006 and has led their political messaging operation, is considered the favorite to succeed Mr. Reid as party leader. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, could also be a contender for the job, but it is unclear how strongly he would pursue it.

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CONNECTICUT: 11-Member Household Challenges Hartford's Definition Of Family

The city of Hartford, Connecticut has been socking an 11-member household in a wealthy neighborhood with zoning violations because most of the adults living there are unrelated. Yesterday the household fired back with a federal lawsuit challenging the city's definition of a family.
In a complaint filed in federal district court Wednesday, the eight adults who live in a Scarborough Street mansion said they are part of a functional, taxpaying household that includes three children, but that Hartford's zoning laws forbid them from living together. "This issue of the government deciding who is a legitimate family and who is illegitimate is unacceptable to us," said Joshua Blanchfield, a Hartford public school teacher who lives in the nine-bedroom home with his wife and two children.

The plaintiffs said the city's refusal to accept them as a family and efforts to evict some of the occupants violate their rights under the state and federal constitutions, including a right to privacy and personal autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment. They are seeking damages for legal fees and "pain, suffering and emotional distress."

The city did not return a request for comment by Wednesday night. Peter Goselin, an attorney representing the Scarborough group, argued that the city's "antiquated" zoning code encroaches on his clients' freedom to live as a family and raise children together through a partnership among longtime friends. "This is an important right that is part of a long American tradition of extended families, part of a long American tradition of cooperative and collective living arrangements, something that goes all the way back to the Iroquois Nation, even before there was a United States," Goselin said.
More about the group from CBS News:
Just like like others, the home making headlines was purchased by a "family" who live in apparent domestic harmony -- except they're not. The group of 11 actually includes three couples, with three children and two single people. They're all longtime friends who decided years ago they wanted to live together. "I think there's a real extension of our values as people," English teacher Kevin Lamkins said. "The values I'm speaking of are sustainability, cooperation, living more, living well but within your means. Being connected to other people and not being in a silo, so to speak." The group of friends includes three teachers, a grants manager and a mental health therapist. "It's not a cult, there's no religion, there's no intermingling," Julia Rosenblatt said. "We're really living like most people are, you know, we are just doing it together." They purchased the nine-bedroom home and moved in last August. They have a legal partnership agreement and a shared bank account to pay expenses.
Although the zoning law restricts households to two unrelated adults, it permits an unlimited number of live-in servants. The household's neighbors are citing a 1974 Supreme Court ruling which upheld a similar zoning law in New York state. A law professor quoted in the above-linked story says that the federal government has never ruled that "unrelated people can be a family entitled to constitutional protection." (Tipped by JMG reader Arcane)

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Yelp CEO: We Will Not Expand In States With License To Discriminate Laws

From Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:
It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.) I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books. I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.
San Francisco-based Yelp went public in 2012 and says it will gross about $575M this year.

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Audra McDonald Vs Gov. Mike Pence

Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald went after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Twitter last night. New Civil Rights has more of her rant. (Tipped by JMG reader David)

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Hillary Clinton Slams Indiana

RELATED: #BoycottIndiana is trending nationwide on Twitter this morning.

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PUERTO RICO: Liberty Counsel Seeks To File Brief In Marriage Equality Case

Last week the Puerto Rican government announced that it was dropping its opposition to same-sex marriage. Enter, as always, the Liberty Counsel:
Today Liberty Counsel filed a motion seeking permission to file an Amicus Curiae brief at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of Puerto Rico's law memorializing that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Liberty Counsel's brief is particularly important because Solicitor General Margarita Mercado-Echegaray abandoned her duty to defend Puerto Rico's laws.

Initially the Solicitor General successfully defended Puerto Rico's marriage law at the district court, but when she filed the brief at the court of appeals, she announced that the Commonwealth had changed positions and would no longer defend the marriage law. Liberty Counsel is having to seek the court's permission to file the brief, because one of the plaintiffs has refused to consent.

Liberty Counsel’s position shows how same-sex marriage leads to the devaluation of both a mother and father, who each provide a unique contribution to the family. Studies have estimated that $229 billion dollars in government spending between 1970 and 1996 could be directly attributed to the breakdown of the family culture and its resulting social consequences.

“Homosexual activists are not only seeking to push their values into Puerto Rican laws, but they are attempting to mute anyone with a different opinion. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and no court has the right to undermine it,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is representing the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which claims to represent 500,000 churches globally. Perhaps obviously, the Liberty Counsel's losing track record is rather spectacular.

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Federal Court Blocks Medical Leave For Married Gay Couples In Four States

Last night a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a recently-issued Labor Department policy that grants family medical leave benefits to married same-sex couples in states that forbid same-sex marriage. Chris Johnson reports at the Washington Blade:
In a 24-page decision, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of George W. Bush, issued the preliminary injunction based on the threat of irreparable harm to Texas, which filed the lawsuit against the regulation. “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated that irreparable injury would occur,” O’Connor writes. “For example, the Final Rule would require Texas agencies to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions as marriages in violation of Texas Family Code § 6.204(c)(2), which expressly prohibits state agencies from ‘giving effect to a . . . right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction.’…Defendants’ argument that the Final Rule only affects the states in their capacity as employers does not take into account the clear and expansive language of the text. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have met their burden under this factor.”
The suit was filed last week by Texas AG Ken Paxton and was followed by thrilled press releases from anti-gay hate groups. Yesterday Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell announced that he had joined the suit. Read the ruling.

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Louis Gohmert: I'm Not Backing Ted Cruz Because I Might Run For President Myself

Via The Hill:
Conservative firebrand Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told The Hill that he might run for president in 2016. Gohmert indicated he might launch an exploratory committee for president when originally asked if he would support Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) White House bid. "Ted is a good friend and would be an outstanding President; however, I haven't ruled out an exploratory committee myself," Gohmert said in a statement to The Hill. Gohmert launched long-shot bids for Speaker in January and for chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of House conservatives. But the Texas Republican accrued just three votes during the Speaker election — from himself as well as Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Randy Weber (R-Texas).
The above-linked piece notes that Gohmert holds the 2014 House record for extemporaneous speeches mostly delivered to an empty chamber, babbling for 29 hours. The next-closest House rep spoke for 10 hours during last year's session.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

CALIFORNIA: Former NOM Staffer Files For State To Secede From United States

JMG reader Ben points out yet another crackpot 2016 ballot measure for California. This one calls for the state to become an independent nation.
Sovereign California is challenging the bankrupt and dysfunctional American political system with a new hope for California. Our new hope lies in greater autonomy so we can do what is right for California. For the past three decades, the United States has used us as a donor state – reinvesting a quarter of our tax dollars every year to bankroll infrastructure and education in other states while roads in California remain neglected – now 3rd worst in the nation – and our children attend substandard schools – now 5th worst in the nation. Is this ever going to stop? Not unless we change the status quo – and that means a new relationship with the United States. We will define that new relationship by establishing a state panel that puts ideology aside and puts California first. This panel represents a new hope for California.
If the name on the below referendum filing seems familiar to you, that's because he is the very same NOM tour bus driver that later came out in support of same-sex marriage. In blog posts after his April 2011 defection, Louis Marinelli claimed that Brian Brown had instructed him to take photos of counter-protesters that made them appear to be "crazy." Brown then dismissed Marinelli as "nothing more than a volunteer bus driver," but Good As You then proved that Marinelli was the administrator of NOM's Facebook page and had actually come up with the idea of the bus tour in the first place.

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Massive Explosion Rocks East Village

Multiple fatalities are feared after a massive explosion rocked the East Village this afternoon and caused the collapse of at least one apartment building. Dozens of apartments are reportedly engulfed in flames and the FDNY has declared a seven-alarm emergency. All local television stations are covering the scene live and reporters there say there is a strong smell of gas. The fire started in a building at Second Avenue and East Seventh Street and hundreds of first responders are on the scene. I'll update this post when more is known.

UPDATE: Some video is coming in.

UPDATE II: From the Wall Street Journal.
An explosion in New York City’s East Village on Thursday afternoon led to a building collapse and multiple injuries, a law-enforcement official said, with hundreds of emergency workers on the scene fighting the fire and searching the rubble for trapped people. A preliminary investigation indicated the fire and building collapse was due to a gas explosion, the official said. Two other buildings were in flames, the official said. The explosion, which sent flames into the sky near the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, happened shortly after 3 p.m., according to police officials. A ground-floor store was blasted out, a law-enforcement official said. The scene created chaos in the East Village, a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings, restaurants and bars. Perry Kroll, who lives a block away, said he felt his whole building shake, and all of his neighbors spilled out into the street. “There’s an epic smoke column rising from the block,” he said. “I can see really big flames everywhere and chunks of ash falling from the sky. It looks like a building just blew out into the street. It’s just absolute chaos.”

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Alma Mater Of Sodomite Suppression Act Author Declines To Condemn Referendum

Christian activist Matt McLaughlin, author of the Sodomite Suppression Act, graduated from law school at Virginia's George Mason University. Today the Washington Post published their reaction:
Emails to various members of the Mason community have informed us that Matthew McLaughlin, a 1998 graduate of this law school, has filed a ballot initiative in California where he has apparently lived for the past seventeen years. The effect of this initiative, if it were enacted by voters, would be to amend the state’s Constitution by enacting a bill of attainder (the “Sodomite Suppression Act”). Among other things, this act would impose the condition of outlawry on gay and lesbian people in California, thus withdrawing from them the protection of law and allowing them to be killed out of hand, by anyone at any time, with legal impunity.

Some correspondents have called upon the law school to repudiate this initiative – and Mr. McLaughlin. With respect, we must decline, as it is not the function of schools or other institutions to denounce things with which they have nothing to do. Law schools are not guarantors of the views or acts of their former students. No one ever suggested that Harvard Law School should repudiate the treason of Alger Hiss, or that the University of Puget Sound law school should disclaim murders committed by Ted Bundy. Responsibility for those crimes belongs to the criminals, not to the schools they attended. The same principle applies here. Mr. McLaughlin must answer for himself, and not we answer for him, concerning what he says or does. Of course individuals, speaking for themselves, remain free to express their own opinions if they so choose.

Another consideration contributes to the conclusion that we should stand to one side. Mr. McLaughlin’s filing suggests views that undeniably are out of keeping with the normal civilities of life. But so far as appears, they are also lawful and constitutionally protected expressions. Mr. McLaughlin has a right to say what he wants and to petition the government for redress of his grievances – and it is up to him to determine what aggrieves him. Other people have the same rights and are free to use them in a different way – including to criticize Mr. McLaughlin. And still others are free, for a variety of possible reasons, to refuse to be conscripted into a contretemps that has nothing to do with them.

There is real advantage, apart from the principles of constitutional law, in limiting how much one should discourage people from expressing even very revolting ideas if that is what is on their mind. Tolerance of this kind facilitates self-disclosure by those whose hearts are septic with senseless rage. So disclosed, respectable people can see who they are and simply avoid them. But if suppressed, they may nurture their loathing in afflicted silence, even as they continue to mingle freely in the world with less-stricken and unsuspecting souls.
Yesterday California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a court request to quash the proposed ballot measure before it can proceed to the petition-gathering stage.

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FOTF: Something, Something, Gays, Marriage, Tourism, Shitty Weather, Jesus

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SLOVENIA: Legislature Rejects Bid For Referendum To Repeal Same-Sex Marriage

The Slovene National Assembly today approved a bill that bans the proposed referendum on repealing same-sex marriage. Today's action cites the 2013 constitutional amendment that forbids popular votes on human rights issues. Anti-gay factions are now expected to appeal to the Slovene Constitutional Court with the claim that marriage is not a human right. Early this month Slovenia became the 12th European nation to legalize same-sex marriage. (Via JMG reader Robin)

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Pope Francis To Visit White House

Via White House press release:
The President and the First Lady will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday, September 23. During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities. The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope.
Something seems to be missing from that list of topics.

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Aaron Schock Says Goodbye To Empty House, Compares Himself To Lincoln

Well, both ARE rumored to have slept with men, so...

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WASHINGTON: Catholic Archdiocese Joins Fight To Block DC Gay Rights Measure

Via the Washington Blade:
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington signed on to a letter to members of the U.S. Senate on March 20 calling for Congress to block a D.C. bill that would protect LGBT students from discrimination at religious schools operating in the city. The letter, which was signed, among others, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl calls the Human Rights Amendment Act approved by the D.C. Council last year an attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital.

The letter also calls on Congress to kill another bill approved by the Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. That measure would prohibit D.C. employers from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health choices, including a decision to have an abortion. D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton joined city officials in strongly disputing claims that the two bills would infringe on religious freedoms or freedom of speech. The Archdiocese of Washington oversees 139 Catholic parishes and 95 Catholic schools in D.C. and five counties in Maryland.
The campaign is being led by Ted Cruz. His "disapproval resolution" would require passage from both chambers of Congress and the signature of President Obama. Ain't gonna happen.

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From The CEO Of Salesforce

David Badash has the story. (Tipped by JMG reader Scott)

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AFA Dares Us To Freep Their Poll

As longtime readers know, we have freeped the fuck out of American Family Association polls many times, sometimes forcing them to zero-out the results and start over or take the poll down entirely. But most AFA polls are completely laughable with options that all say the same thing in different ways. As in "Choose one: A) Gay people are going to hell. B) There is a hell and gays are going there. C) Hell is totally full of gays." Today's poll is just like that. Don't freep, just giggle.

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A Note From Neil Tennant

Killers frontman Brandon Flowers is probably the most famous Mormon in pop music and he and his family are featured in a video on the LDS website. While he's known to be gay-friendly, Flowers said little during the Prop 8 fracas. It will be interesting to hear his take on what is arguably the most famous gay anthem of all time.

UPDATE: Here's the first single from the coming album.

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ITALY: Civil Unions Bill Advances

By a vote of 14-8 Italy's Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced a civil unions bill that would also allow gay couples to adopt each others' children and visit each other in the hospital. Outside adoptions by same-sex couples would remain banned. Same-sex marriages conducted legally in foreign countries would be recognized domestically as civil unions. The bill is opposed by Forza Italia, the party headed by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently banned from holding public office following his conviction on corruption charges. Forza Italia holds 66 out of 315 seats in the full Senate. (Tipped by JMG reader Andrea)

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INDIANA: Governor Mike Pence Signs Anti-Gay License To Discriminate Bill

Pence has issued a press release:
Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith. The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action. One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views. [snip]

This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana. Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.”
Pence does not identify the nuns and monks seen flanking him in today's "private signing ceremony."

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Ted Cruz: The Media Is Playing "Gotcha" About My Signing Up For Obamacare

Yesterday Ted Cruz used his lackeys at the Heritage Foundation to whine that the media is playing "gotcha" over his announcement that he will sign up for Obamacare. Mediaite breaks it down:
As Cruz explained, the reason why he has to buy his employer-based health insurance through the federal exchange is because of the Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) amendment that said the only plans made to available to members of Congress with employer contributions must be through those exchanges. He accused President Barack Obama of creating an “illegal exemption” for Congress, which he has no intention of using. Cruz rejected the suggest that following the law is “somehow less than principled.”

However, purchasing health insurance through Obamacare is not Cruz’s only option now that his wife has gone on unpaid leave. For one, he and his family could use the COBRA system to extend her health insurance for up to 18 months, though it would likely cost far more than his employer-based option and has a number of restrictions. And if Cruz doesn’t want to go through the exchange, he has the option to purchase a plan directly from an insurance company. But in that case, he would receive no contribution from his employer — the U.S. government — and would end up paying a higher premium. So, ultimately, Obamacare may be the easiest and cheapest easiest health insurance option for Cruz.

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Matt Baume On Religious Liberty

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NORTHERN IRELAND: Trial Begins For Baker In Marriage Cake Case

Via the Belfast Telegraph:
A legal case involving a Christian baker who refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan cannot be determined on which side shouts loudest, a court in Belfast has been told. Northern Ireland's Equality Commission is bringing the case against family-run Ashers Bakery on behalf of gay rights activist Gareth Lee, whose order was declined. Belfast-based Ashers, which is owned by the McArthur family, refused to make a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto "Support Gay Marriage". Opening the case, Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Lee, noted the publicity around the case and highlighted that politicians, church figures, bloggers and others had expressed opinions on the matter. But the barrister insisted the case must be judged on the facts alone. "Law must not be determined by those who shout loudest," he said. Mr. Allen said he was not in court to challenge the McArthur family's faith. "This is a case about commerce and discrimination," he said.
Outside the courthouse, the baker (photo above) told the press: "We just didn't want to be forced to use our creative skills to help endorse and promote a campaign message that went against our sincerely held religious beliefs. We are just trying to be faithful to the Bible." (I wonder where they came up with "sincerely held religious beliefs.") The cake flap has prompted the Democratic Unionists party to propose a "conscience clause" bill that would allow businesses to reject LGBT customers. Sinn Fein has vowed to block that bill. The anti-gay Christian Institute is pushing a similar bill in England. The BBC is tweeting from the courthouse and live updates are being added to the above-linked story.

RELATED: Northern Ireland remains the United Kingdom's holdout on same-sex marriage and observers believe this case may further slow the cause.

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TEXAS: Bill To Ban Same-Sex Marriage Sees Resistance From House Committee

Late last night a committee of the Texas House took public comments about  Rep Cecil Bell's bill that would forbid county clerks from issuing any marriage licenses, putting that duty in the sole hands of the secretary of state. The bill further bans the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses by any state employee, no matter how the Supreme Court might rule. As those of you here witnessed via the live-stream, there were some beautiful, moving testimonies from the parents of gay children as well as the usual illogical bleating from representatives of hate groups.

Members of the committee grilled Bell at some length about the financial aspects of the bill, which would cost the state an estimated $1.6M in the first year and $1M annually thereafter. Via the Texas Tribune:
The bill’s pricey fiscal note, prepared by the Legislative Budget Board, includes salaries for 18 full-time employees who would be required to issue marriage licenses. Texas counties issued 185,510 marriage license applications and declarations of informal marriage in 2013. No vote on the bill was taken, and Bell told the committee he intended to present a revised version that will address the fiscal impact. Geren said he would also like Bell to address the local impact on individual counties. "The fiscal note says there's no local impact. My [county clerk] disagrees with that, and I think the testimony here shows several clerks disagree with that," Geren told Bell. "I think there is a local impact in the millions of dollars, and I don't know how we address that, but I hope that you will in the substitute that you're working on. Turner seemed less interested in considering Bell’s bill substitute, saying the measure would create “chaos and confusion.” When Bell reiterated he would present a bill substitute, Turner responded, “I don’t care how much lipstick you put on it.”
Bell has introduced three other anti-gay bills and those have not yet been heard. Only four Democrats sit on the 12-member House State Affairs Committee. Same-sex marriage is already banned by Texas statute and by the state constitution, so Bell's action represents a triple ban.

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FRANCE: Prosecutor Says Airliner Was Crashed Deliberately By Co-Pilot

Via ABC News:
A Marseille prosecutor says the co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps appeared to have crashed the plane deliberately. Prosecutor Brice Robin said the action of manipulating "what is called the flight monitoring system in order to embark on the descent of the plane", could "only be deliberate". "I repeat, when he was alone, in charge of the Airbus, the co-pilot started the flight monitoring system to get the plane to descend," he said. "The action on this altitude selector can only be voluntary, I repeat action on this altitude selector can only be deliberate."

The German citizen, left in sole control of the Airbus A320 after the captain left the cockpit, refused to re-open the door and pressed a button that sent the jet into its fatal descent, Mr Robin said. He said that "one can then hear several calls from the commander asking to be allowed into the cockpit", but there was no answer. "He knocked on the door and there was no answer from the co-pilot either," he said. "One can then hear the noise of human breathing within the cockpit, and that human breathing noise can be heard until the final impact which means that theoretically the co-pilot was alive.

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This Is An Ad For Something

Appearing last week at SXSW was New York performance artist QT, whose single below was rated by Spin as the #4 best song of 2014. That track has now been turned into a music video-length product placement-laden commercial for her soft drink, about which she says: "DrinkQT is a 5-calorie, sugar-free, 250ml drink, manufactured to contribute to upward shine, vertical connectivity and personal growth." OK! To me this sounds like a 21st century Barbie Girl as performed by the Chipmunks. Oddly, I don't hate it. My favorite comment on YouTube calls this "Shelley Duvall-core."

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Heinz To Merge With Kraft

Via USA Today:
In a jolt touching pantries across the globe, H.J. Heinz and Kraft Foods Group (KRFT) will merge into the world's fifth-largest food and beverage company — bent on cutting costs, growing internationally and evolving into a more consumer-focused company. The massive merger, valued at about $36 billion, will allow Kraft "to move and grow faster than we could on our own," Kraft CEO John Cahill said. He would become vice-chairman of the newly-formed Kraft Heinz. The companies had been unanimously approved by their boards of directors. The new firm will be headquartered in Pittsburgh, home of Heinz, and in the Chicago area (Kraft). There are no plans to close either operation. The new company will have revenue of approximately $28 billion and will hold a portfolio of brands, including Heinz, Kraft, Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida and Philadelphia.
RELATED: In recent years Kraft has been the target of anti-gay groups due to its rainbow Oreo campaign in recognition of gay pride. In 2013 One Million Moms went after them for their "disgusting" ads for Zesty salad dressing. In 2008 Heinz was criticized by British gay activists after they caved to complaints and pulled a lighthearted mayonnaise campaign that featured a deli counter clerk kissing a male customer.

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NIN Frontman Trent Reznor Is Helping Shape Apple's Coming Music Service

Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning musician Trent Reznor is helping Apple with the launch of their streaming music service.
The new music app, which is a collaborative effort between Mr. Reznor and other Apple and Beats employees, including Jimmy Iovine — who founded Beats with the hip-hop star Dr. Dre — will feature the streaming music service with many of the same characteristics as the Beats Music streaming service, one Apple employee said. Those may include curated playlists and a more vivid visual appeal, while conforming to Apple’s sleek and minimal design aesthetic, one person said. The name Beats Music will most likely be shed. According to an Apple employee, the service is being tested as part of a new version of the company’s mobile software system, iOS, which has been given the code name “Copper” and is expected for public release this year.
The service is expected to launch at $10/month and will not include an ad-supported free option like Spotify.

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Phyllis Schlafly: Governors Should Defy SCOTUS Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saudi Arabia Has Begun Bombing Yemen

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